Espresso machine vs. bean to cup coffee machine

I often receive questions from readers and the YouTube channel viewers about whether choosing an espresso machine or a bean-to-cup coffee machine is better. At first glance, both coffee makers seem to serve the same purpose: making a delicious espresso, the base for different drinks like lattes and cappuccinos. But is this really the case?

Although both machines deliver “espresso” coffee, there are notable differences in their operation and the final result. Get ready because I will tell you things no one says on other blogs!

Espresso machine vs. bean to cup coffee machine RATIO

The ratio is undoubtedly the most important factor when preparing espresso. This refers to the grams of beverage obtained for each gram of coffee used. Lower ratios result in more intense beverages and higher ratios in lighter ones, but I will discuss this later.

While the classic espresso machine uses a ratio of 1:2 to 1:2.5, the bean to cup coffee machine needs a ratio of 1:4 to achieve decent results. This is due to the limitations that the bean to cup coffee machine presents in preparing the coffee puck.

The brew unit is the biggest drawback of the bean to cup coffee machine.

The grinding level used in a bean to cup coffee machine is much coarser than in an espresso machine. As a lack of puck preparation, if we ground very fine, the extraction would be uneven, with many channels.

Only for darker roasts could we use the finest grind level offered by the bean to cup coffee machine, but for medium-light roasts, we need to use one or two steps coarser on the grinder setting.

As a result, as the grind is coarser, we need more water passing through the coffee to extract it properly. If we have 10 grams of coffee in the brewing group, we need 40 grams of the final beverage.

➡️ Here, I explain how to calibrate your bean to cup coffee machine.

Amount of coffee in espresso vs. bean to cup coffee machine

This relates to the above, as we will need higher ratios in bean to cup coffee machines; for the same amount of extracted beverage, less ground coffee is required. In standard espresso machines, we find up to 22 grams of baskets, while in bean to cup coffee machines, the brew unit usually does not hold much more than 14 grams.

Spend less coffee, save more money!

As a general rule, you will use much less coffee with a bean to cup coffee machine than with an espresso machine for the same drink.

Cost of bean to cup coffee machine vs. espresso machine

A bean to cup coffee machine is undoubtedly cheaper than a quality espresso machine, plus a grinder capable of grinding fine and uniformly enough for that particular espresso machine. Not to mention accessories like tampers, bottomless portafilters, distributors, etc. But to give a bit of context to this, I bring a real example of two of my coffee makers:

1. Incapto bean to cup coffee machine

The bean to cup coffee machine I use is from the brand Incapto and costs just $272.60 (Christmas Offer) with a coffee subscription; a single payment and you have nothing else to worry about. Of course, you must pay for your coffee monthly, but this affects both coffee makers.

My beloved Incapto coffee maker and the collection "Around the World in 10 Coffees"
My beloved Incapto coffee maker and the collection “Around the World in 10 Coffees”

2. Delonghi Dedica espresso machine

On the other hand, the Delonghi Dedica costs $178.38 (Christmas Offer), but to this, you have to add the expense of a specific grinder for espresso; my Sage The Smart Grinder Pro is priced at $199.95

When you delve into the world of espresso, you encounter an unexpected surprise: the grinder, essential for good coffee, often costs more than the coffee maker itself.

Doctor Cafetera – Pablo Barrantes

Besides the grinder, if you want to get the most out of your coffee maker, you will buy other accessories like a bottomless portafilter, a precision basket, a tamper, a distributor, a leveler, etc., which can reach a total value of between $80 and $100 more. That would make a total of about $500.

Espresso machine and its accessories
The espresso machine and its accessories

Taste of espresso from bean to cup coffee machine vs traditional espresso

I will be clear: if you use specialty coffee, no matter which coffee maker you use, the espresso will always be of good quality. The only difference you will find is in how your palate perceives that drink, which, to simplify the explanation, I have divided this perception into 4 fundamental areas:

1. Flavor and intensity

  • Traditional espresso: Using a more concentrated ratio of coffee to water, the resulting espresso is usually more intense in flavor. The smaller amount of water does not dilute the coffee compounds as much, resulting in a drink with a stronger, more concentrated flavor profile.
  • Espresso with bean to cup coffee machine: A more diluted ratio leads to an espresso with a less intense flavor. The larger amount of water tends to soften the overall profile of the coffee, resulting in a lighter drink and less overwhelming flavor.

2. Notes and flavor profile:

  • Traditional espresso: The characteristic notes of coffee, such as fruity, chocolaty, or floral flavors, can be more pronounced and noticeable due to the concentration of coffee compounds.
  • Espresso with bean to cup coffee machine: The additional dilution can allow different aspects of the coffee to stand out. The subtle notes may be easier to detect, although overall, the flavor profile may seem more balanced but less intense.

3. Acidity:

  • Traditional espresso: The acidity can be more prominent in a more concentrated espresso, especially if the coffee has inherent acidic characteristics.
  • Espresso with bean to cup coffee machine: A more diluted espresso usually has a more balanced or softened acidity, resulting in a less acute sensation on the palate.

4. Bitterness:

  • Traditional espresso: A more concentrated espresso can have greater bitterness, especially if the grind is very fine, which increases the extraction of bitter compounds.
  • Espresso with bean to cup coffee machine: Bitterness can be less pronounced in a more diluted espresso, which might be preferable for those seeking a smoother drink.

How does this affect milk-based drinks?

In lattes and cappuccinos, a more concentrated traditional espresso enhances the coffee flavor, balancing the sweetness of the milk and maintaining a robust flavor profile. This is ideal for those who prefer a strong coffee taste.

Conversely, an espresso from a bean to cup coffee machine offers a smoother flavor and may be more suitable for those who seek a drink with less coffee intensity, though it runs the risk of being too diluted by the milk.

User experience in espresso vs. bean to cup coffee machines

Beyond technical specifications and flavor profiles, user experience plays a crucial role in selecting the right machine. This experience is defined by several key factors such as ease of use, maintenance, and customization of drinks.

1. Ease of use:

  • Traditional espresso: Require more knowledge and involvement in the preparation process. Suitable for coffee enthusiasts who enjoy manual control and experimentation.
  • Bean to cup coffee machine: Stand out for their simplicity and speed. It is ideal for users who seek convenience, with automated processes from grinding to coffee extraction.

2. Maintenance and cleaning:

  • Traditional espresso: Simpler for daily cleaning (cleaning portafilters and tray with a damp cloth).
  • Bean to cup coffee machine: Although they offer automatic cleaning and descaling programs, they require regular attention in internal areas such as the grounds drawer, drip tray, and brewing group.

3. Customization of drinks:

  • Traditional espresso: It’s up to the user to maintain detailed control over each aspect of preparation, making adjustments in grinding, temperature, and pressure for a customized espresso.
  • bean to cup coffee machine: Many models allow customization and storage of coffee recipes. Ideal for users who enjoy a variety of drinks at the touch of a button.


If what you value in an espresso is pronounced intensity and a strong flavor, then a bean to cup coffee machine might not be the best option for you. However, it’s important to consider that the initial investment in a traditional espresso machine can be higher, and the coffee cost tends to be greater over time. Preparing and cleaning after each use could also require 5 to 10 minutes of your time.

Conversely, if you prefer a softer coffee and prioritize convenience and ease of use over the manual process, a bean to cup coffee machine could be your ideal choice. Remember that these machines need a deep cleaning weekly, which can take about 15 minutes, but on a day-to-day basis, they offer a quick and hassle-free coffee experience.

Written by Pablo Barrantes Nevado
I am Pablo Barrantes, a coffee lover. I decided to start this website to solve all the doubts that arise every day when preparing our favorite drink: coffee. I am an industrial engineer by profession, but I have worked in coffee shops for many years, where I have learned all the secrets about coffee machines and coffee. My passion for coffee has led me to investigate and study beyond the obvious, and thanks to this, I can offer solutions and give news about coffee and coffee makers. I hope you enjoy reading as much as I research, document and write here.

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